McDonald's Joins Throng of Marketers Experimenting With Snapchat

Lebron James and New Bacon Clubhouse Are Revealed to Followers

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Snapchat isn't just for millennials anymore. It's also for brands trying to reach them.

McDonald's has joined the parade of marketers experimenting with the ephemeral messaging service -- photos and videos disappear after 10 seconds -- and it has enlisted basketball star Lebron James to promote its new account.

The fast feeder published a Snapchat "story" yesterday that it added to throughout the day with additional images and video clips that fleshed out the narrative. The 36-second story is filmed at a shoot, and a figure that appears to be Mr. James appears about eight seconds in, obscured by a bust of a man's head.

Mr. James appears toward the end of the story, saying, "Welcome to the club, baby." The scene then shifts to a picture of burgers and fries with the text "New bacon clubhouse!"

The segment also features Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and top NFL prospect Johnny Manziel.

The stunt is similar to what Taco Bell -- another fast feeder keen on connecting with millennials -- did last May, when it became one of the first brand adopters of Snapchat and announced that it was reintroducing the Beefy Crunch Burrito via the messaging service. Like Taco Bell, McDonald's teased a surprise on its soon-to-launch Snapchat channel on Twitter.

But while Taco Bell sent actual "snaps" containing the taco images to individual users who had followed it last spring, McDonald's and a lengthening list of brands are publishing on Snapchat via "stories," which launched in October. (Taco Bell has subsequently used them.)

While snaps are private messages, stories are the closest thing to a broadcasting option that exists on Snapchat. There's the option of making them visible to just friends, a custom list, or "everyone" on Snapchat -- an option that creates the semblance of a public profile on what's been an extremely private service.

Stories can be stitched together from multiple images and videos clips, with the most recent one appearing at the end for the sake of narrative coherence. They appear beside account handles in a user's list of friends, can stay visible for 24 hours and can be replayed as often as someone likes in that window.

Snapchat 'stories'
The potential to tell a longer-form story and the clearer privacy boundaries inherent in stories could give brands more of an incentive to have a presence on the Snapchat network. (However, brands like Wet Seal and GrubHub are still sending one-to-one messages.)

For example, HBO introduced a Snapchat account for "Girls" by producing a 200-second story with pictures and videos stitched together featuring the stars from the red-carpet event for the Season 3 premiere.

Juicy Couture used stories last fall to preview its spring campaign. And the New Orleans Saints started producing stories soon after they were launched, making a statement that it wouldn't -- currently -- engage in any one-to-one messaging.

Other brand adopters of Snapchat range from the predictable (Seventeen magazine) to the unexpected (Bloomberg Businessweek.)

There's also the highly unexpected in the guise of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who announced on Facebook last month that he was joining Snapchat. (One of the barriers to entry for brands on Snapchat is a discovery problem; there's no way to search for users, so someone has to have the username of the person they want to follow.)

His second snap was a homage to his chosen medium for the message. It was a picture of a moon with the text, "Hey NSA check this out! You've been 'mooned.' But it's disappearing… better get a screenshot fast."

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